Monday, March 2, 2015

Bullet Review: Multiversity: The Mastermen

I have been enjoying Multiversity, Grant Morrison on walkabout through the multiverse. The stand out for me has been Pax Americana, perhaps the finest comic I have read in years. The Secret Society of Super-Heroes and Thunderworld were also very good.

Last week Multiversity:Mastermen came out, a collaboration of mega-stars Grant Morrison and Jim Lee. This is Earth 10, the old Earth X of the pre-Crisis world, a place where the Nazis won World War II and Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters battled them.

Unlike that world though, this new Earth 10 has a Superman. And he is fighting for the Germans.

And there were enough Supergirl (or here, Overgirl) bits to make it worth a brief review.

Now the comic world went mad at the opening of the book, a constipated Hitler reading Superman comics while on the toilet. But for me, that was the most forgettable part of the book, something that seems more in line with a Mark Millar book.

No, for me, this story is about Superman. Crashing in the Sudetenland instead of Kansas, Kal-El (called Karl) becomes the Ubermensch, the Overman, which leads Germany to victory.

But this is a sad story. Because over the decades, as he continues to run the Reich, you can see that Overman is an empty shell. His life is without joy, without love, without meaning. The above moment of victory is fleeting, replaced by a wasted life.

While there is a Nazi-based JLA, the rebels on the planet are growing stronger and somehow winning.

And Overgirl, the Nazi Supergirl, has been killed at the hands of the growing opposition. We see how her death affects Overman. His dreams are nightmares, reliving this  moment in a Hellish landscape.

This is another homage to the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths #7.

It isn't the first time we have seen Overgirl die. Way back in 2008, in Final Crisis #3, she came through the bleed and died on Earth-1.

Overgirl's death is recent. There is a memorial dedication to her the next day.

It is the small touches of these different Earths that make me appreciate them. On this Earth, Superman is married to Lena Luthor! This world is completely topsy-turvy from what we are used to. Having 'Karl' married to a Luthor is a perfect way to show us how crazy this place is.

She tells him that he needs to be strong at the memorial.

At the memorial, we hear that Overgirl 'died on a distant world'. Maybe that Final Crisis death is 'in continuity'?

Finally, at this service, we learn that the narrator of the book is this world's Jimmy Olsen. He is close to Superman here, a propagandist, but also someone who knows just how empty Superman is.

But the rebellion doesn't stand by while the enemy mourns.

In a great shot, we see the spirit of Uncle Sam leading the attack while the Human Bomb detonates, ending the memorial sevice.

I will say there are some odd wrinkles to the story as well.

I liked how the death of Overgirl seemed to be weighing on Overman, the last straw which has broken his will. Could this loss make him finally realize that he is in charge of a world he hates?

We then learn that the superhumans that are fighting for the undeground, the Freedom Fighters, were given their power through experiments by Dr. Sivana. I love the fact that Sivana ... all of them from all the universe ... are being set up as the big bad in the story.

And I love the redesigned Phantom Lady costume!

One thing that I have seen in many Elseworlds Superman stories is how his 'goodness', his morality, is inherent. Regardless of where he is raised or how he is treated, the real Superman shows. Here, despite what I am sure was a childhood of indoctrination, we see him mourn as he sees the result of the concentration camps. He was away, on the front, while this genocide occurred.

It is the most chilling scene in the book. 

But where other Elseworlds Supermen would change things, make the good rise, this Overman seems to just be crushed by the weight of the world. Instead of shining his light, he just allows the madness to continue around him.

The book ends with the Human Bomb, captured by the JLA, detonating himself on their satellite causing it to plummet to Earth and raze Metropolis. Overman couldn't stop this.

I love Uncle Sam here, extolling the virtues of freedom and the American Way. The issue ends with Overman kneeling amidst the ashes. He is utterly defeated ... but it isn't just physically. He is spiritually defeated.

These Multiversity one-shots are fascinating glimpses into the edges of the new DC multiverse. I would rank this book as one of the better ones, a solidly somber tone to contrast the lighter Thunderworld and pulpier Secret Society.


Martin Gray said...

This was my least favourite of the bunch - I was hoping for lots of the Freedom Fighters, not just another dark reflection of Superman. I heard one reviewer say that Overman was the traitor, but if that's the case, it was too subtle for me.

I also seemed to miss on Lena being a Luthor - just had another look, but I can't see it, is it mentioned somewhere?

I think I'd have liked this more without the Jim Lee work, it's just too lumpen for my tastes here.

Anj said...

I just assume everyone named Lena is a Luthor.

For me, even though this is a dark Superman ... he clearly regrets his life. This isn't a version with him reveling in the darkness. He hates himself.

I doubt he would be the traitor if he knew the result would be a leveled Metropolis.

I didn't like the Me Earth.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

The death of Overgirl is likely in continuity with with FINAL CRISIS. The MULTIVERSITY GUIDEBOOK has a story with the 52 Earths in between. With slight modifications, the new Earth-51 is like the one seen in FC. There are slight changes, but the most telling thing is that we saw the same image of OVERMAN holding OVERGIRL in the COIE homage in the last issue of FINAL CRISIS. Perhaps she was fighting The Gentry and was knocked to Earth-0 from Earth-10?

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

The issue worked for me. In every MULTIVERSITY book so far, the virus is mentioned. In THE JUST, it is already there, as in PAX AMERICANA and Algorithm 8. So we now the virus (whatever ties the stories together from MULTIVERSITY#1) manifesting later in each book, in this case giving Overman a clearer conscious. My take on how Overman changed, the virus working in an opposite way, but, as Martin Gray has said, I really didn't need the Jim Lee artwork. Three inkers? How much effort did he put ino this book?

Anj said...

Thanks for the comment!

As always, I am interested in seeing how Morrison links all this stuff together.

I'll have to break out Final Crisis again to look up all the Overgirl moments.

Jude Deluca said...

I liked how the dead Justice League in Overman's dream was the Nazi League from Countdown instead of Morrison's designs. That's the second time he's referred to Countdown besides Superboy-Prime destroying Earth-15.

Also, I just figured Lena was supposed to be a version of Lana Lang. "Lena" is just how her name was tweaked in the same way "Clark" becomes "Karl."

Biggedy said...

I did pick up that hint that the traitor is Superman, which makes it even more tragic of a story. Give the issue a read again with that in mind, and you'll see a few more clues pop up in the dialogue. And I do think Final Crisis is where Overgirl died...

I have been absolutely enjoying the Multiversity series and it's the only print book I buy (everything I read is digital). Morrison is certainly at the top of his game and giving very distinct, different stories per world that he's exploring and it's such a breath of fresh air. I even liked his earth-Me story as well.

In fact I'm enjoying it so much I've dug up Final Crisis and re-read it and actually like it a lot more that I did before (I initially hated it). If Multiversity is his swan song for the DC Universe, it's fantastic!